Behind the Steel Curtain is one of my favorite SB Nation websites. The community there tends to be open and friendly, and the writers have a streak of creativity. I thought it might be a bit of fun on this WFT-free Sunday to have a quick peek at what the fans of our opponents are talking about this weekend.
A satirical look at a weird time for the NFL and your Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Welcome back. It’s been a while.”
“How long was I in a coma?
“Thirteen years. It is now 2020.”
“Wow, that’s a long time. Whoa, wait! Why are you wearing a mask? Why are you so far away from me? Do I have some sort a contagious disease?”
“No, the world does. We have to wear masks and socially distance now.”
“Socially distance? What the hell is that? Anyway, is this virus anything like the scary kind you always see in the movies?”
“Yes…No…Well, sort of.”
[The Steelers] have to play the Washington Football Team next Monday at 5p.m. I know you’ve had a long rest, but that will be a really short rest for them.”
“Who is the Washington Football Team? You mean the Redskins?”
“Shhhhhh! You can’t say that name anymore. It’s the Washington Football Team now. The team finally decided to change its nickname because it was deemed to be insensitive to Native Americans. Stay right there in your bed, I’ll cue up some highlights on my smartphone from their game on Thanksgiving so you can see for yourself. Here, catch!”
“Whoa, what is this? Is this like a mini-TV?”
“No, I just said it’s a smartphone. It’s a cellphone, but you can surf the Internet, listen to songs, etc.”
“Wow, this is so cool! How do you guys get anything done?”
“We don’t, really. Now, will you just watch those highlights!”
“Why haven’t they decided on a new name yet, and why do their new uniforms look like the Chiefs? Hey, did they change their name, too?”
“No, it’s complicated.”
“They really do look an awful lot like the Chiefs uniforms. I wonder why they did that?”
“I don’t know. I think Daniel Snyder is trolling us.”
The veteran quarterback is putting up numbers no one thought he would following a season ending elbow surgery in 2019
If you didn’t already realize, Ben Roethlisberger is averaging 39 pass attempts per game and has already thrown the football 431 times this year. He’s currently on pace to throw 627 passes on the season, which would be the second highest total of his career (2018: 675 attempts). The mind blowing thing about this stat is Ben Roethlisberger is coming off an elbow Injury which saw the veteran pivot have three tendons surgically reattached in his arm... But you already knew that.
If you were to have asked me how the Steelers season would go if Ben Roethlisberger had to throw more than 600 passes this year I would have told you it would be a long season for the team. But not only has Roethlisberger and his elbow sustained a high volume throw season, he has been ridiculously accurate. Roethlisberger has completed 67.5% of his throws which is also the second best percentage of his career (2015: 68% in 12 games). If you need any more proof that Roethlisberger is as good as ever he’s also on pace for 36 touchdown passes which would be the highest total in a season for his 17 year career.
Currently Roethlisberger has the fourth highest odds at winning the NFL’s MVP award. He would also be the hands down leader for the NFL’s comeback player of the year award if it wasn’t for the Washington Football Team’s quarterback Alex Smith who quite literally nearly lost both his leg or his life to return to the NFL. Roethlisberger has been one of the stories of the year, and will keep the Steelers a perennial Super Bowl contender as long as he’s at the helm.
The young Washington pass rusher could give the Steelers fits in Week 13
Washington’s 4-7 mark has them tied with the New York Giants for the lead in the woeful NFC East. Don’t let that mark deceive you, however. WFT has looked competent as of late. That’s not high praise but it should serve as a warning to anyone who expects the Steelers to blow through them on route to the big matchup at Buffalo next week. WFT is 3-3 in their past six games, with their losses coming by one, three and three points. Their schedule hasn’t exactly been Murderer’s Row over that stretch. They’ve played Dallas and the Giants twice plus Cincinnati and Detroit. Those four teams are a combined 13-30-1 on the season. Still, wins are hard to come by in the NFL and Washington has found ways to get it done.
News flash: turnovers are a primary determinant in who wins or loses a football game. That adage is as old as the game itself. In Washington’s case, this has been particularly true in 2020. In their four victories, they have two turnovers and eight takeaways for a ratio of +6. In their seven losses, they are 14/4/-10.
Few players in the NFL have impressed me more as rookies than Chase Young. Young has drawn comparisons to Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney at this stage of his career and is a leading candidate for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. While Young’s numbers aren’t mind-blowing — he has 4.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles thus far — Young has already proven to be a disruptive force along the Washington defensive line.
With Pittsburgh’s expert pass protection, however, and with the fact Ben Roethlisberger leads the league in time-of-release at a little over two seconds per throw, the Steelers have done a nice job minimizing the impact of elite pass rushers. This isn’t to say Young can’t be disruptive in this capacity, only that Roethlisberger rarely holds the ball long enough to allow rushers to be effective.
More worrisome is something like the scenario below, where Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow escaped the pocket, scrambled around and was flattened by Young on [a] viscous open-field hit.
Young is not a dirty player — the hit on Burrow was clean and legal — and Roethlisberger is not likely to scramble the way a young QB like Burrow does. Big Ben still has the occasional tendency to extend plays, however, which create unscripted situations and can lead to break-downs in blocking assignments. The thought of Young getting a free run at Roethlisberger and the chance to put a hit on him like the one above is frightening. The Steelers will have to account for Young from snap to whistle on every play.
It’s tempting to call this a “trap game” for the Steelers since it’s sandwiched between big games against Baltimore and Buffalo and the Steelers have a short week to prepare. Pittsburgh played terribly against the Ravens, however. Turnovers, dropped passes and a bone-headed play in the secondary that yielded a late Baltimore touchdown made the game much closer than it should have been. Odds are the Steelers won’t play two straight such games, which bodes well for their chances on Monday. Winning the turnover battle and neutralizing Chase Young would improve those chances significantly.
The Steelers quarterback did not practice this week leading up to Monday’s game.
Although he was listed as a coaches decision along with a knee injury, it is unclear at this time if there is a realistic possibility of Roethlisberger not playing on Monday. Perhaps it was due to him taking the week off from practice which has dictated having an injury status. Roethlisberger did not practice the week before the Cincinnati Bengals game due to being on the Reserve/COVID-19 List as a close contact. Against the Bengals, Roethlisberger threw up for 333 yards and four touchdowns with no practice time other than a walkthrough the game before. With the Steelers having such a short turnaround before Monday’s game, perhaps they felt Roethlisberger would be better off resting his body ahead of Week 13. More news on the Roethlisberger situation should hopefully emerge between now and game time on Monday.
Three Games to Watch...
This is a weekly series published on BTSC in which they preview three critical games that involve, usually, upcoming opponents, and look at the results from the three games previewed the week before. Washington Football Team was covered in the Week 11, 12 and 13 articles.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Football Team
Both teams are still on the Steelers schedule in 2020, so it makes sense for this to be a game to watch. Add in the fact the Steelers just came off a game against the Bengals, seeing how they stack up against the Washington Football Team will tell something about two of the Steelers next five opponents.
Cincinnati Bengals (9) at Washington Football Team (20)
This was probably the game that ended the Cincinnati Bengals season. Maybe they can try to be competitive the rest of the way, but Joe Burrow was the biggest threat the Bengals had. Perhaps now they can lose out for a high draft pick to maybe take care of protecting their franchise quarterback. But since it’s the Football Team the Steelers play sooner on the schedule, it’s hard to gauge much when the opponent loses their best player in the game.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team
Who would have thought a couple of 3 win teams would actually be important? In reality this game isn’t all that significant apart from the fact that the Washington Football Team is the Steelers Week 13 opponent. Being next on the schedule means seeing how they do the previous week as it is something worth noting.
Dallas Cowboys (16) at Washington Football Team (41)
The score looks completely crazy, but one must remember that over half the points were scored in the final quarter of the game. Some people have already forgotten where Dallas was down four points in the fourth quarter and ran a fake punt from their own 24 yard line. One play later Washington got the first of three fourth-quarter touchdowns and one poor decision turned into a blowout game.